AMG Performance Tour – SLS AMG. Click image to enlarge
Manufacturer’s web site
Article and photos by Paul Williams
AMG Performance Tour
Spring Mountain Motorsports Ranch, Pahrump, Nevada – For many consumers, Mercedes-Benz is simply a maker of luxury vehicles. Even though the company is front-and-centre in Formula 1 racing and has a long history of global motorsports endeavours, the brand’s reputation for luxury and quality perhaps overshadows its performance achievements.
But like most car manufacturers, Mercedes-Benz offers higher performance versions of its vehicles developed by a specialty division. ‘AMG’ are the magic letters for Mercedes, indicating models with a superior level of driving dynamics, distinctive appearance items and an altogether more aggressive interpretation of each Mercedes-Benz class.
Specifically, AMG products offer engine tuning for more horsepower and torque, bigger brakes, a stiffer suspension, improved aerodynamics, quicker steering response, larger wheels with performance tires, sport seats and special trim components. A 25 to 30 per cent price increase over the top version of each model can be expected for the AMG treatment, with, depending on the vehicle, between five and 20 per cent of buyers availing themselves of the option.
To demonstrate its AMG vehicles, Mercedes-Benz Canada assembled an AMG version of each of its models classes at Spring Mountain Motorsports Ranch, just outside of Las Vegas, Nevada. The event was part of the brand’s global AMG Performance Tour, which is a global initiative to present AMG to dealers, customers and journalists. The line-up in Nevada included the C 63, E 63, S 63, CLS 63, SLK 55, SL 63, ML 63 and SLS AMG (which is actually a Mercedes-AMG product, and cannot be purchased otherwise).
AMG Performance Tour – S 63 (third photo) and SLS AMG. Click image to enlarge
At 2.4 kilometres in length — the shortest track configuration at Spring Mountain — the facility offers a comparatively short and technical track experience. Numerous turns and corner combinations challenge the driver and vehicle, quickly identifying strengths and weaknesses in both.
Under the tutelage of instructors with Vancouver’s “Driving Unlimited”, who manage Mercedes-Benz Canada’s Driving Academy, the differences between the vehicles were quickly identified, along with their capabilities.
All of the models demonstrated surprising track capability, although some, like the ML 63 and S 63, required more time to negotiate the twists and turns. These are large vehicles, don’t forget, and while the AMG treatment is definitely evident, their role as practical SUV and luxury flagship respectively, requires a more measured approach to performance tuning.
This is not the case for the new-for-2011 SLS AMG, a supercar in looks, price, heritage and performance. The SLS is a beguiling creation; a modern-day version of the classic SL 300 Gullwing from the 1950s that itself surely generated the same excitement, anticipation and attention as the SLS does now. Here is a vehicle from which you truly cannot remove your eyes (or your backside…).
In the SLS, AMG is less constrained in its performance decisions because right from the get-go, this is a sports car. AMG’s job, presumably, was to make it one hell of a sports car, which has been achieved by specifying a 6.2-litre AMG V8 engine that delivers 563 horsepower and 479 foot-pounds of torque, linked to a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission with race-start function and a standard limited slip differential.